Review & Giveaway: The Soldier’s Unexpected Family by Tanya Agler



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The Soldier’s Unexpected Family
(Heroines of Hollydale #3) By Tanya Agler
Adult Contemporary Romance
Paperback & ebook, 230 Pages
March 1, 2021 by Harlequin Heartwarming

He had a plan…
She changed it all!

Major Aidan Murphy arrives in the charming small town of Hollydale to take full guardianship of his six-year-old nephew. Only there’s a slight problem—his vivacious, fiery co-guardian. School teacher Natalie Harrison has no intention of letting Aidan take her best friend’s heartbroken little boy away. Now Aidan must convince Natalie that blood is stronger than love…even if his heart tells him otherwise.

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My Review

What a fun meet cute this novel had! I was laughing out loud at Aidan misunderstanding what Natalie was complaining about and Natalie misunderstanding who Aidan was! Of course, once the situation became clear, the real conundrum began. As co-guardians, living in different places, what arrangement would be best for Danny?

In this opposites-attract story, the romantic tension that built between Natalie and Aidan was heightened because even as they fell for each other, all signs seemed to be pointing to imminent heartache when Aidan left, either by himself, or taking Danny with him.

Danny was very well-written. He was a grieving little boy who loved his Aunt Natalie and his Uncle Aidan. The moments where he missed his mom and was reluctant to laugh and have fun because he missed her were very sweetly written.

I enjoyed this small town story. I have read the other two books in the series, so it was fun to return to Hollydale, however, this novel can definitely be read as a stand alone. I am hoping that there will be a future book starring Natalie’s twin sister, Becks.

(4 stars)

I received a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

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About the Author

Tanya Agler remembers the first set of Harlequin books her grandmother gifted her, and she’s been in love with romance novels ever since. An award-winning author, Tanya makes her home in Georgia with her wonderful husband, their four children, and a lovable rescue beagle. When she’s not writing, Tanya loves classic movies and a good cup of tea. Visit her at http://www.tanyaagler.com or email her at tanyaagler@gmail.com.

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Author Interview

 
What inspired you to write The Soldier’s Unexpected Family?

This book is the third in a trilogy that began with The Sheriff’s Second Chance. When I was thinking about the heroine for the first book, the theme of friendship spoke loudly to me as Georgie is independent and never connected to friends or the community. During the plotting stages of that book, two characters came to mind of women who would befriend Georgie: Lucie Decker, who would be jaded by life events but not defeated, and Natalie Harrison, who was also the hero’s sister. Natalie is a happy person, always ready for a new challenge.

When I started writing this book, at first I was in a corner. Natalie believes in hope and happiness, which are wonderful attributes but sometimes not the best character for a whole story. Her optimism drew me to her character in the first place as a foil for Georgie, but it left me wondering what I could do with someone with a naturally sunny disposition. So at first, I was wondering what could stand in the way of Natalie finding happiness. With this book, the character came first, and the story followed.

And the answer came from something a writer friend told me a while back. When you start a story, ask why. Once I started asking why, Natalie turned into someone real for me. Why did she start projects and not finish them? What is one project you can never turn your back on? What is the one thing she would never turn her back on? And even though Natalie wouldn’t have a qualm about turning her back on a project or something trivial, Natalie loves people. She’s an extrovert who loves fun and craves excitement. She’d never turn her back on someone she loves so that inspired the character of Danny, who is a sweet six-year-old boy whose mother, Shelby, died of natural causes.

Then that brought the next piece of the story into play. If Natalie somehow were to end up as Danny’s guardian, who would fight her for custody? And enter Aidan Murphy. I was fortunate to brainstorm this book with my editor, who made so many great suggestions. My father and both my grandfathers served in the military, so for Aidan to be in the military would be a reason for him not to have lived in the same town as his sister, Shelby.

From there, once Danny and Aidan came into the picture, I kept asking why and the story clicked into place. Natalie’s vivacity and her love for her friends and family first inspired me to write her as a character into the first book, and the theme of friendship led me into catapulting her into her own story.

What do you love the most about this story?

This might be my favorite book I’ve written to date. I’m sure most writers say that, but I loved writing this story. To wake up and have the opportunity to jump into Natalie’s sections with her optimism and bright outlook was such a joy, and writing Aidan’s scenes with his careful deliberate manner interacting and opening to the town that embraces him was also such a pleasure.

But as much as I love Natalie and Aidan, two characters took me by storm and just stole the show. Hyacinth Hennessy and Belinda Chastain are two amateur pie bakers who are total opposites in their approach to life and baking. Hyacinth is a flighty extrovert who loves everything and everyone, including her two boxers. Belinda is more cautious, but they are both adamant they bake the best pies to the extent the town takes sides and people are either Team Hyacinth or Team Belinda as far as who is the better baker. They’ve both won thirteen blue ribbons for their pies, and this Fourth of July’s pie contest will be a tiebreaker year where one of them gets bragging rights for a year.

They’re funny and animated, and their feud is the stuff of small-town legends. I love books that present a touch of humor, and I hope these two make people laugh as much as they made me laugh while I was writing.

What challenged you about writing it?

There were different challenges about the book. The timing itself was challenging as I wrote the last half of the book and edited it while under lockdown. My kids learned to do schoolwork to classical music playing in the background as that seemed the least intrusive music and was a signal that it was time for work. However, there were different challenges about the book itself.

When Natalie came into books one and two, her personality was bright and sunny and just plain happy. These are great qualities in a supporting character who is trying to show the heroine that goodness and hope will prevail. In a heroine, though? It was hard to put someone that happy into impossible situations. The more time I spent with her and this book, the more I discovered she is happy, but there were layers to her and I hope those come across to the reader.

Another challenge revolved around Aidan. My father and grandfathers served in the military. My father was in the Air Force, and both my grandfathers were veterans of World War II with my maternal grandfather serving in the Navy and my paternal grandfather being part of what became the Flying Tigers. One interesting sidenote about my paternal grandfather was he was an amateur photographer who once met Babe Ruth and the last king of Hawaii and they posed in the same picture. Because of my family’s ties to the military, I wanted to make sure I did justice to Aidan, a major in the army.

On a much lighter note, it was rather challenging but fun to write a book set in summer during the doldrums of winter! I kept looking at pictures of the Fourth of July and fireworks and parade floats at the same time I saw snow out the window (yes, Georgia had snow in February of 2020!) and wore thick sweaters. It’s great fun, though, and it feels like it’s the best of both worlds to write a summer book while it’s winter.

Which character do you most relate to and why?

With The Soldier’s Unexpected Family, I relate a little to each of the characters: Natalie’s optimism, Aidan’s planning, Diane’s family focus, and Belinda and Hyacinth’s competitiveness. Overall, however, if I have to choose one character with whom I relate the most, though, I think it would have to be Aidan. We both grew up with fathers who served in the military. He’s a planner at heart, and his protective nature is something that’s endearing to him. When he arrives in Hollydale, he is laser focused on his objective (which is something I can also relate to!), which is taking Danny home with him and becoming the best guardian he can be. Over the course of the book, Aidan changes (and I won’t say how because I hope you’ll read the book and find out!) and this impacts how he sees the people around him.

I also relate to Natalie’s hope of a better tomorrow. Her attitude of hope and bringing people together is one of the qualities I love about her.

What do you hope readers will take with them after they’ve read it?

That’s such a great question. I hope readers will take a little laughter and a lot of happiness with them after they read The Soldier’s Unexpected Family. Aidan has a precise idea of what he wants to take with him from Hollydale, and when he arrives, nothing goes according to that plan. He didn’t account for Natalie’s underlying strength and determination. He didn’t expect to meet formidable rivals in Hyacinth and Belinda. And, most of all, he wanted to reconnect with his only family member, not realizing the town had adopted Danny and loved him and considered him part of their family. During the book, he runs into unexpected encounters that make him laugh and unexpected memories that starts him on the road toward grieving for his sister. Throughout his visit, unexpected moments lead to new possibilities, and I hope that theme resonates with the reader.

I love books that make me laugh and tug at my heartstrings, and I hope this book provides that same type of feeling for the readers.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not writing?

In October, my family recently adopted a beagle who came with a blue blanket and so we named him Linus. He now loves his afternoon walks around the neighborhood. Walking has always been one of my favorite forms of exercise. When I attended the University of Georgia, I enrolled in the walking class to satisfy my PE requirement. I loved taking walks along the hilly streets of Athens. Now I love hiking the trails of Georgia, especially ones that end up on trails with waterfalls. Cloudland Canyon and Amicalola Falls are two of my favorite places for walking or hiking in Georgia.

I’m also a huge fan of classic movies, especially anything with Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, or Irene Dunne. I love curling up on a couch and popping in a DVD and getting lost in a screwball comedy or some other romance from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

I love reading, and one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon is reading a book with a cup of hot tea in winter or unsweet ice tea in summer.

And I miss going to plays or eating out in restaurants. Those are two activities I look forward to resuming in the near future.
 
 
 


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About Brittany

As a homeschooling mom and avid reader, I get great joy through reading and reviewing books. I focus my reading and my reviews on Christian fiction, primarily Christian romantic fiction. I also review sweet, clean fiction. I hope you will find my reviews helpful in your decisions on what books to read.
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6 Responses to Review & Giveaway: The Soldier’s Unexpected Family by Tanya Agler

  1. Anita Yancey says:

    I really like the cover, and the book title.

  2. isisthe12th says:

    Looking forward to starting the Heroines of Hollydale series! Thank you

  3. Kay Garrett says:

    Thank you for your review on “The Soldier’s Unexpected Family” by Tanya Agler. Enjoyed reading the author interview because it’s always fun to learn more about author’s that I enjoy reading their books. This one sounds like another great one from Tanya and I can’t wait for the opportunity to read it.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  4. attennos39 says:

    You had me at the hero being a soldier and a heart broken little boy. My niece was 3 when she lost her father and at 6 it is still such a pain that she has to deal with. She always ask why did her daddy have to go to heaven.

  5. Lelia “ Lucy” Reynolds says:

    Adorable cover and sounds interesting.

  6. Patty says:

    What a difficult situation for all involved!

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